Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona will lock horns in the Copa del Rey on Thursday evening, with a spot in the quarter-finals of the competition on offer at San Mames.
Both sides have recently been in Spanish Super Cup action, with Barcelona losing to Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the competition, before Athletic were beaten by Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the final.
Athletic had the chance to make it back-to-back Spanish Super Cups on Sunday, having beaten Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the competition on January 13, but they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the final.
The Basque outfit will now switch their attention to the Copa del Rey, booking their spot in the last-16 stage of the competition courtesy of a 2-0 win over Mancha Real towards the start of the month.
Athletic are the second-most successful side in the history of this competition, having lifted the trophy on 23 occasions, while they have also reached the final on a further 16 occasions, but their last success was back in 1984, overcoming Barcelona at Bernabeu.
Marcelino’s side have won three of their last five matches in all competitions during an encouraging run, while a positive La Liga season to date has left them in ninth position in the table.
The Lions suffered a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in last season’s Copa del Rey final, but they held the Catalan side to a 1-1 draw when the teams locked horns in La Liga back in August.
Barcelona, as mentioned, lost 3-2 to Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup, with the defeat following a 1-1 draw with Granada in La Liga, which has left them sixth in the table.
The Catalan giants are the most successful side in Copa del Rey history, having won the trophy on 31 occasions, and the 2021-22 campaign could still be deemed a positive season for the club if they manage to retain the Copa del Rey, win the Europa League and secure a top-four finish in La Liga.
Xavi’s side have only had to win one match to book their spot in the last-16 stage of this season’s Copa del Rey, recording a 2-1 victory over Linares Deportivo on January 5.
Barcelona have shown plenty of positives since Xavi’s arrival as head coach, and there are expected to be a number of changes at the club before the end of the January transfer window, with players set to leave and indeed arrive this winter.
Blaugrana will end January with a La Liga clash against Alaves on January 23 before welcoming the champions Atletico Madrid to Camp Nou towards the start of next month.
Athletic Bilbao Copa del Rey form:
Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):
Barcelona Copa del Rey form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
We say: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Barcelona
It is difficult to know exactly what to expect on Thursday, as both managers will make changes from their usual starting teams. Barcelona’s squad is starting to look a lot stronger following their injury issues, though, and we fancy the Catalan giants to navigate their way to the quarter-finals of the competition